Category Archives: Doings

Memory and food

I love church festivals, they were a major form of entertainment when I was a kid.   And I love food in general, especially when it is made with a helping of love.  So I was off this past weekend to the local Slavic Festival.   And where was it you might ask?   Way out in the country.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

That distant peak on the horizon is the 14000 foot mountain, looking kind of puny.   And what was I after?

KODAK Digital Still Camera

I actually went out there for the pierogis (potato dumplings), but these were not that great.  I make them with a thinner dough (and love), so mine are much better.  But the kielbasa and halupski (bacon, noodles, cabbage and onion) were outstanding, and the cabbage rolls were pretty good too.   These are not the kinds of food I ate as a child, and I probably wouldn’t have even sampled them.  But I have acquired the taste for these over the years  from when I traveled in Canada (pierogis in Manitoba) and Russia.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

At one point there were a lot of Czechoslovakian farmers in this area and they started this church.   And they have maintained a congregation for over 100 years.  The church is  is quite charming and exotic and  they got a huge turnout of people who remember this sort of food from their childhoods.  And even people like me, who don’t.

State Fair


I somehow can’t resist the siren call of the fair.  I love pretty much everything about it, it’s a celebration of rural life, sparkly things, carnival rides and contests.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

When you enter through the main gate you see the rodeo arena first thing.  It has these lovely cut outs of cowboys and cows making a frieze across the length of the building.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

And of course there are plenty of colorful booths selling various kinds of fried things.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This booth had the added attraction of wrapping fried things in bacon, always a winning idea (at least it is if they use good bacon).

KODAK Digital Still Camera

But why was I really taking time out of my busy life to run down to the fair?   Well it was to check out the latest piece I had submitted to Fine Arts.   I didn’t get one of the regular ribbons, I got Juror’s Choice! It was a complete surprise.  I have made very serious pieces the past two years, this one was kind of goofy and very last minute.   But I got a ribbon, so I was very excited and pleased.   It gives me some incentive to do it all again next year.

Pow Wow

The annual summer pow-wow took place this past weekend and I thought I might enlighten you, my dear reader, on the different types of dance outfits.   Of course all of these styles are rooted in the past, but we have much better materials to work with, and we only have to trade money for things, instead of the ancestral homeland or a bunch of beaver pelts.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

First up is a Plains style dance dress, a jingle dress.  Traditionally the metal cones that give this dress it’s name are made from the lids of snuff cans.   That would be an awful lot of chaw if you couldn’t purchase these ready-made.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Here are a couple of ladies.  The woman on the left is wearing a beaded buckskin dress.  She has a beaded crown and she is carrying a beaded feather fan and a dance shawl.  The lady with the fur covering her braids is in a ribbon work dress.  And the lady on the right is in a traditional Navajo outfit of a velveteen blouse, tiered skirt and turquoise jewelry.  In the background are a couple of grass dancers.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The woman on the left is wearing a wool trade cloth dress that is decorated with elk teeth (either real or made of bone).  The other ladies are just dancing.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

I don’t recall ever seeing a dance outfit like this one with the apron, perhaps it is what a white captive might wear.  The round collar on the blouse is more typical of Eastern tribal wear.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This little guy is wearing a grass dance outfit, with a feather headdress.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The guy in back is wearing a fancy dancer outfit, with a headpiece made of the fur from a deer’s tail.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

And this is my dance shawl, with hand dyed multicolored fringe.  I wear this whenever I feel like dancing to the drum.


Year of the Monkey

So today we were out and about, buying things before the big snow storm.   It is not yet the Year of the Monkey, but because it is a week-end, they were having celebrations.   I needed (not really needed, this is never the sort of thing one needs, but I definitely wanted) some fresh lemon grass, so we headed over the the Asian-Pacific Market to buy some, and to see what they were up to.  It’s the place to go to when you are looking for unusual ingredients.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Hey, what’s he doing here.   Not a monkey, not even close.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The karate kids were there, doing a routine to some rap music.  Karate is good to develop your dance moves.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Then there was another bunch of kids, ready to dance to some traditional music,  more rap/pop music.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

We needed to get home, so we enjoyed them for a bit.  (That drum would look lovely in my elf house).

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Then Miss Monkeypaws and I got some Chinese take out and called it a day.

Food Memories

For Christmas one of my brothers sent me this:

KODAK Digital Still Camera

a Krakowska, from Piekutowski’s.   It’s a ham based sausage, and Pope John Paul II said it is the best Krakowska outside of Krakow.  This sausage maker is located in the old neighborhood in North St. Louis, and I have been eating this for as long as I can remember.   When I lived in the neighborhood it was a working-class area with mostly Poles and Germans.   The older generation were good friends with my grandparents, and when my brother went in to buy this, the old guy was there helping out.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Another food I associate with St. Louis and love is White Castle hamburgers, also an acquired taste.  They are tiny square hamburgers, steamed with onions and served on tiny square buns.   There is a White Castle right near the St. Louis airport and it is always my first stop when I fly in.   Sometimes it is my last stop as well, I get frozen ones to take home.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

When I was a young teenager going to Steak ‘n Shake late at night was the thing to do.  It was a real diner, with hamburgers freshly cooked on grill and served on thick white plates with a side order of fries (chips).   Now it is a chain, and this one is located here.  They are going for a retro vibe, everyone still wears a white dress shirt with a black bow tie and a paper hat.  But it is not nearly as special, there was that intoxicating freedom of being out and about late at night when I was young.   And I can’t replicate that.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

But they still make a pretty decent hamburger, and me and Miss P enjoyed this one today.

Santa Fe

This time I did not just take an imaginary trip to Santa Fe, I actually went.  My friend was driving to Albuquerque, so I hitched a ride and we were off on the adventure.   After a stop in the old (probably not considered old in England, but the mines aren’t being worked at present) mining town of Trinidad for a Sicilian pasta lunch, it was on to New Mexico.   We followed Mr. GPS’ directions and got an unusual view of Santa Fe (note to self: do not trust machines, they can’t see where they are going).

Founded in 1607 near the site of an earlier Pueblo settlement, the center of town is laid out perfectly for defense and horses, but not cars.   At one time the plaza was actually the center of the town, with a hardware store, cafe, Woolworth’s, etc. but now it is entirely given over to tourists.   The full name refers to the Holy Faith of St. Francis.


There are scads of artists that live and exhibit in Santa Fe, as there are a number of rich people (movie stars, etc.) who both visit and live there.  One of the currently popular motifs in art is crows, which I love.






As well as other sculpture.


The other draw is the quality of light and the architecture, which makes it easy to get interesting photos.






The only thing that I really, really wanted to do while I was there was have drinks on the rooftop bar of the La Fonda Hotel.   The La Fonda is an old (for America) hotel, built in the 1920’s, that has not been modernized into oblivion.   When I was a college student we would come here for dinner on special occasions.


After a quick stop in Raton (another old mining/railroad town)


it was back to my ordinary life.

August: Mora County


Right before I left for my trip I saw the move “August: Osage County.   It was well reviewed, had plenty of movies stars in it, and, most importantly, there was nothing else on.  This is one of those obviously written plays about a dysfunctional family (is there any other kind?).   I say that it is written dialogue, because drunks and drug addled people seldom come up with anything coherent and cogent to say.   It is hard to come up with a reply to an insane comment,  I tend to think of replies, but I don’t use my out loud voice to say them.

The movie is about two harsh sisters, the wimpy husbands, and the adult children.   Women hold families together, it was impossible to believe that these harridans could do that, these families would have disintegrated years before, so the movie is completely unrealistic.   Then I went to visit my late husband’s relatives.


This is not to imply that they are anything like these characters, but I did look at the family interactions in a new light.   In any small town, there are those who stay and those who leave, and there is a certain tension over the choices that are made, and subtle (or not so subtle) criticisms.


This past weekend was the 104th annual town festival.   The town is about 700 people, it at least doubles with visitors, some people are from there and coming back, some are relatives and a few are actual tourists.   The relative’s house is usually packed with distant cousins and others.   Last year was the first time I had ever been there without M.  This year some of the cousins was absent due to poor health: when we started coming to this we were the young people, now we’re not. 😉

There was an open family snit going on, I heard from all sides about the perfidy of one person who was not there.  There was also a new, father-less great-grandchild and a certain amount of sibling rivalry between the grandchildren that I had never noticed before.


I have always looked forward to going to this place, maybe even more than my husband.  You cross into New Mexico from Colorado over Raton Pass (elevation +7800 feet).   When you come over the pass, you see the beautiful high plains of New Mexico,  which I just love.


As I was driving along I was thinking about the fact that this might be the last time I ever go there.  We remember the first time we do some things quite vividly, the anxiety of the first day of school, the thrill of the first kiss, the adventure of the first big trip.   The last time we ever do a thing is largely unknown to us.   I had a conversation with my late mother about this, she had realized after coming home from visiting my brother that she would probably never be able to travel again, but it was only probable at that point, not final.   So perhaps it wasn’t the last time I will go there.


Internet friends

The most amazing thing to me about the internet is that we can have connections with people that we would never meet in a million years.  I met you lot in London, people I would have never had occasion to cross paths with.   And it was a wonderful and interesting experience.  Today I met another person that I only knew from the internet, the author of  The Daily Coyote.


This is a blog that I have been reading for a couple of years, my friend found it somehow and we have kept on reading it.  Out of necessity she adopted a baby coyote when he was only 10 days old.  She is a talented photographer and the blog is mostly photos, with stories about Charlie the coyote, her dog Chloe, and the cats Eli and Mushy.  She has another blog about the rest of her farmily (not a mis-spelling): the bull Sir Baby, the cows Daisy, Maia, Fiona, Leila,  and the new punk chickens.

Besides these animals she also raises beef cattle, and that is how I met her.   I bought a 1/4 of one of her beautiful, grass-fed, dry aged Angus beef and we met at a truck stop outside of town to pick this up.  The meat was  in some boxes, cut, wrapped and frozen.  I also got an ankle  and hoof for my friend’s dogs and she was thrilled to get this (Miss P has dental problems, so no bones for her.)

I am so blessed that although I am a shy person, I have been able to meet such interesting people through the magic of the internet.   I have also done art projects with people I have never personally met.

p.s.  I got one of my art pieces accepted into an art show!

County Fair

I would be willing to guess that agricultural fairs are the same the world over.   I was struck by the need to attend our county fair on the last day, so off I went.   It’s about 35 miles west of town, out on the plains.   A big rainstorm had just come through so it was muddy, but the temperature had cooled off, so it was quite pleasant to stroll around.   The main point of the fair these days is to encourage young people about farming, so here is a girl and her goat.


What is fair without monkeys?


The monkey was infinitely more talented than the Western gunfighter act that I saw several years ago.  And he was apparently in the movie ‘Rock of Ages” with Tom Cruise.   (You can tell them apart because the monkey is shorter).


Of course there is fairground food.  (A corn dog is a hot dog on a stick, dipped in a cornmeal batter and deep fried to deliciousness).



And beer and rides.




Quilts.  But there weren’t too many of these.  I have entered once, but I didn’t get a ribbon, so I stopped.


Here’s a picture from the fair in 1916.  It looks like the big event was a baseball game.


The big events for participants is the prize winning animals.  I did not stay for the final event, a demolition derby.  (Guys drive old cars around in an arena, crashing into each other until only one car is still able to drive.)  I’m pretty sure British fairs are similar.   Our state fair is coming up next month with more of the same only on a bigger scale.

How to turn $ thousands into $ hundreds

Stuff, so valuable and desirable  when it belongs to us, becomes massively undesirable when it’s lumped together and sold in a garage (boot) sale.  I had the opportunity to follow someone’s stuff along its’ path from treasure to trash.

The story starts with the untimely death of a young woman.   (Well she was younger than me, so that makes her a young woman.)  She went into hospital, was doing fine and recovering, when she took a turn for the worse and died.   With no descendants or siblings and only a distant elderly mother, our group (actually one kind soul who does not take no for an answer) offered to help clear the house  and that is where it got interesting.   The deceased was a hoarder and her house was packed with giant piles of stuff.  Two stories of things with little pathways through to the important parts, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and laundry (although there was not much evidence that the laundry room was used).  She had never allowed any of her friends to enter, so no one knew what was inside.

I am a lover of mystery fiction, so here was my chance to play detective, to look for hidden secrets.  I got to indulge my general nosiness and score some interesting finds.   When I look at some else’s belongings I wonder why they kept this, why was it important?

I spent 10 hours in her bedroom sorting and cleaning.   I examined everything I touched and it made me rather sad.  There was masses of unworn and unused items, now they would never serve their intended purpose.   It was obvious that she was enthralled with ‘retail therapy’, buying things to make herself happy.  Did she forget that she already had a dozen tweezers, or could she just not be bothered to look for them in the confusion?


After all, who has not one, but two of these things?  Not to mention 130 brassieres, 100 pairs of shoes and boots, 85 handbags, cupboards full of pots and pans, $400 dollars in loose change and at least one uncashed dividend check.  When she ran out of space in the house, she stored things in bins outdoors, in the garage and at a neighbors.  It took our group of ladies (none of us young) endless hours to sort, clean and haul away (this is where husbands and sons come in handy)  the hoard.

Then came the sale.  Over two days we flogged part of the detritus of her life.  Beautiful things, ordinary things, unusual things (but not the fur-lined handcuffs, I threw those away), all at about 10 cents or less on the dollar.  Lots of stuff sold, but lots was left over.


It made me sad to know that this too is the probable fate of my beloved stuff: my Godzillas, toys and fabric.  My nephew will have to come here and do this, or perhaps if my group still exists they  will do it for him.

The best part of this exercise is that all the money we raised from this sale goes to charity, so a bit of good will come out of all of this.  The 130 brassieres were sold to the art department at a local college and they will be part of an uplifting (did I really say this?) art exhibit.